Saturday, February 09, 2008

Quick caucus report

-- by Dave

Went to my caucus in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood today. I went as a volunteer, helping people in my precinct sign in. I didn't actually vote because I'm actually perfectly neutral and will be happy to vote for either Obama or Clinton.

But our caucus went strongly for Obama, about 4-1. Other caucuses were similar. And checking around with my fellow bloggers, it seems we're seeing very similar results statewide. Goldy reports seeing the same elsewhere in Seattle. On the Eastside, Dan Kirkdorffer reports that the caucus went 4-0 for Obama.

And even out in rural eastern Washington, in Benton County, Jimmy at McCranium reports a 43-17 advantage for Obama. But then, Hillary does not poll well with rural fols, and that may prove to be a factor in the ultimate outcome.

According to Slog, it's looking like Obama has about 67 percent of the delegates.

UPDATE: Edited for correction. in second graf.

Crazy Dangerous, Part II: Big Flashing Yellow Lights

-- by Sara

In my previous post, which was largely drawn from a public report detailing the risk assessment process followed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, we saw that there are four main factors -- anticipation of an apocalypse, a theology of violence, charismatic leadership, and active separation from the larger society -- that seem to predispose unconventional religious and political groups toward violent behavior.

One of the more interesting aspects of the CSIS report is its detailed account of the pattern of criminal behavior that these groups typically fall into, which often develops over a period of years before they actually turn violent. Paranoia turns to small-time thuggery turns to large-scale criminal networks -- and, often, it's the defense of these networks, or the fear of their discovery, that ultimately triggers a terrorist attack or law enforcement confrontation.

Understanding some of the forms this lawlessness can take in the run-up to their final confrontation can help us assess whether emerging groups are heading for trouble. In this post, we'll look at some of these signs and patterns -- the big flashing yellow lights that signal a political or religious group that has moved itself well outside the legal and social norms, and is very likely gearing up for terrorism or confrontation.

Political Influence
The most paranoid groups will separate so far from society that any political involvement is unthinkable. However, it's not unusual for large, well-funded groups to bribe public officials in order to get their way: for example, the CSIS notes that the Aum Shinrikyo cult "allegedly bribed Russian officials in exchange for a series of 'favours'."

Emerging groups will also go out of their way to recruit politically influential people as members. The CSIS's example is the Solar Temple, which counted the mayor of a Canadian town and a provincial government official among its members. As a group grows in influence, it may attempt to run candidates of its own. This gives them they legitimacy they crave (and participation in the give-and-take of politics may actually be a moderating influence on some members); but regular readers of this blog don't need to be told that having these folks in office is universally a Bad Idea.

Business Enterprises (Other People's)
It's not just politicians -- these groups may work hard to cultivate friends in other places, too. For example, they might recruit someone who's already a trusted employee of, say, a public utility, where they can reach the controls of water, power, or communication systems depended on by millions. Or they'll place one of their own with a company that does mining or road work and therefore has access to explosives.

In the past year, we've noted that white supremacist groups are encouraging their members to join the US Army in order to get the weapons training they'll need to execute their racial holy war. And I can easily forsee a time when anti-abortion groups cultivate friends with access to patient records, which can be used to target women and doctors for public outing, harassment, and violence. When evaluating the threat level of a group, it's useful to consider who its members are, what skills and training they have, and where they work -- because those connections can offer important clues as to the form the ultimate threat might take.

Business Enterprises (Their Own)
Buying country property and turning it into an armed camp is an expensive proposition; you can only browbeat your members for money and rely on the good will of your donor base for so long before they're all tapped out or scared off. Therefore, sooner or later, most extremist groups go into some sort of business.

According to the CSIS, these businessess often become a handy cover for illegal activities. Their hair-raising example: "Businesses owned by groups can both facilitate weapons acquisition and drive membership growth; the Aum cult's multimillion dollar empire financed the purchase of weapons, justified the possession of ingredients for chemical and biological weapons, and provided a legitimate vehicle for widespread recruitment." Another example is the Fundamentalist LDS's United Effort Plan, which put control of all the church members' assets in the sole hands of the patriarch, and essentially turned everyone into slave labor. (And investigating the operations of these businesses may be one of the best ways to take these groups down relatively peacefully: for example, in the end, it was an IRS assault on the UEP "corporation" that broke the back of the cult.)

For those so inclined, these businesses are a fine platform for taking the group's presence international -- and moving into international crime as well. The CSIS notes that the Solar Temple may have used its businesses to launder money and traffic in weapons; and both the Solar Temple and Aum are also suspected of running drugs through their businesses. If these allegations are true, it means that both groups were probably doing business with international organized crime syndicates -- and as a result, "any possible threats to the public safety are magnified." Indeed. When they start acting on this scale, the fine line between a violence-prone authoritiarian group and a violence-prone criminal cartel vanishes entirely.

Crimes of Intimidation
Amid all of this, groups heading toward violent confrontation will usually start with threats and petty violence against their own members and outsiders who dare to cross them. (Occasionally, these people end up dead -- as a warning to others, both inside and outside the group, of what happens to those who threaten its interests.) Learning that they can successfully intimidate and silence others adds to the group's sense of invincibility, and teaches them the dangerous lesson that violence works -- and both lessons increase the chances they'll resort to violence more quickly, and in greater magnitude, in the future.

Of course, this kind of intimidation and silencing also makes it much harder for investigators to identify and respond to a group that's moving toward a dangerous confrontation; and it's likely to escalate as the group gets wind of outsiders who are taking an interest in their activities.

In the next (and last) post covering the CSIS report, we'll talk about the big flashing red lights -- the final signs that a group has moved to a war footing, and may be becoming seriously committed to acts of domestic terrorism or triggering a violent confrontation with authorities.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Editing out what hurts

-- by Dave One of the way Lou Dobbs has managed to evade responsibility for his outrageously bad reporting on immigration has been to bluster and evade when he's on the other air. And, with the case of the recent attempts by national Latino leaders to hold him accountable, there's always the propagandist's oldest friend, the carefully edited videotape. Kyledeb at Citizen Orange noticed the other day that when CNN put up its own video of Dobbs' confrontation with Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza on its website, there was quite a bit left out:
In the online video of the exchange, edited out some of the most important indictments of the Minutemen, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) along with their connections to hate and vigilantism. also edited out the exchanges quantifying the increase in hate crimes against Latinos, and the few times Lou Dobbs actually says something positive about undocumented migrants.
You can see the CNN version of the video here, and the unedited version of the interview here, here, and here. Now, I don't think this falls into the category of censorship (or even self-censorship) per se, but most likely is a product of an editor or producer's decision not to run the full interview, which for a site like CNN (which tends mostly to run excerpts) is nothing particularly unusual. Even though most of its excerpts run unedited, this was a long interview and so what we got was the edited version. You can clearly see the edits anyway -- there's no attempt to obscure them. But it certainly is revealing what got left out. Dobbs' main tactic as a propagandizing pseudo-journalist is to ignore important counter-information and act as if it didn't exist. I suppose it's not surprising that CNN's editors operate on the same wavelength.

The rage always rises

-- by Dave

On the surface, yesterday's murderous rampage in Kirkwood, Mo., looks to be just another in a series of seemingly anomalous incidents in which a mentally disturbed man with a gun mows down some group of unsuspecting victims:
Charles Lee Thornton used two weapons in a deadly shooting rampage at a City Council meeting in a St. Louis suburb Thursday night, police said, disclosing new details about the attack at a news conference Friday morning.

A crime scene tape at Kirkwood City Hall in Missouri, where a gunman killed two police officers and three city officials on Thursday night.

The first of the five people killed, a police officer outside the building, was shot with a large-caliber revolver and then stripped of his weapon, said Tracy Panus, spokeswoman for the St. Louis County Police Department.

The suspect then proceeded to the council chamber armed with both guns.

Kirkwood, Missouri, was in mourning Friday, with flags flying at half staff at schools and prayer services and vigils planned throughout the day.

Mr. Thornton was shot and killed by police after the five people were killed at the start of a council session in Kirkwood. Two others were wounded, including Mayor Mike Swoboda, who was in critical condition Friday and going into surgery.

But there may have been more going on than mere mental illness:
As the county mourned, the suspect’s brother, Gerald Thornton, defended the assault during several interviews.

“My brother went to war tonight with the government,” Gerald Thornton said in an interview with a local television station after the incident. “He decided that he could no longer verbally work it out.”

In another interview, he emphasized “that this was not a random rampage.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more on this:
The gunman who opened fire on a Kirkwood City Council meeting left a one-line note for his brother before the shootings, which said: "The Truth will win in the end."

Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton left the unsigned note on a bed in a bedroom of the house where they both were living, and Gerald Thornton found it after the shooting rampage Thursday night that left two police officers, three city officials and the gunman dead.

... The gunmans' brother, Gerald Thornton, reiterated today that his brother believed he was "going to war" with a city that did not respect his rights.

"I knew a lot, because my brother talked to me about it," he said.

It's looking like yet another anti-government zealot gone berserk in the mold of Marvin Heemeyer and Carl Drega. As we've noted before, these cases have a propensity to be remade into martyrdom incidents for right-wing extremists.

Standing up to Japan

-- by Dave

The Japanese "scientific" harvest of whales in the waters off Antarctica -- which, as we've discussed previously, formed the focus of the last two meetings of the International Whaling Commission -- continues to stir controversy this year.

Thanks to an intrepid crew of Australian monitors, it's now firmly established that the Japanese methods are far from "humane":
The Australian Government has released evidence challenging Japan's claims that its hunt is the most efficient and humane possible. The images show "scientific research" that needed multiple rifle shots to finish off the mammal.

The Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, said there would be a diplomatic push to end what he said was the charade of scientific whaling, starting at an intersessional meeting of the International Whaling Commission next month.

As the customs ship Oceanic Viking's mission to gather evidence against whaling is extended in the Antarctic, the Government is being urged to fulfil its threat to take legal action against Japan.

A sequence of images taken by customs officers was released yesterday showing harpooned minkes, including two hauled up the stern ramp of the factory ship, Nisshin Maru.

Media claims that they showed a mother and calf were denied by the Institute of Cetacean Research, which said they were randomly taken sizes. "Both whales were female, and both were not lactating," it said.

But the images also showed a whale struggling on the end of a harpoon line under the bow of the catcher boat Yushin Maru, and then the same animal lifeless.

Its head clearly showed entry wounds in a hunt where a high powered rifle is used to finish minkes that are still alive after being hit by an explosive-tipped harpoon.

"This disputes any notion that whales die instantly, and without suffering," said Darren Kindleysides, campaigns manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

You can see photos of this minke whale's suffering here.

It appears that, with John Howard finally gone the way of the pig-footed bandicoot, anti-whaling forces may once again have an ally in the form of the Australian government (and having Peter Garrett head up the environmental ministry is truly significant here).

One can only hope that the same is true of the United States government after January 2009.

The key, as we've discussed, lies in building networks -- including those inside Japan:
One noteworthy aspect of Japanese whaling -- which has been increasing steadily in recent years -- is that its use of the "scientific kill" ruse mirrors, in an ugly fashion, the Republican right's tendency to distort science to support their preferred policies. And of course, one can expect little in the way of substantive American opposition to the Japanese effort to overturn the whaling ban under the Bush administration.

I expect we can look forward to a revival of the Greenpeace-style intervention tactics, which make for great drama but also have a polarizing effect that solidifies the internal political positions of the respective pro-whaling factions.

It's time, I think, to look at other ways of effecting political change beyond media stunts and dramas at sea. One of these is the power of political networking in creating cultural shifts.

It's important to understand that Japan's cultural resistance to the ban whaling, while still strong, has been eroding rapidly in recent years. As Jim Nollman notes in his excellent The Charged Border, whale watching is rapidly growing component of the Japanese tourism industry, and attitudes about whaling are starting to perceptibly change.

When I visited Paul Spong last summer at his OrcaLab on Hanson Island, I noted that three of his volunteers were Japanese. We befriended one of them, who was on her way home after a month on the island, and we gave her a ride south for a ways and chatter her up. I asked her about this, and she said that she believed that attitudes, especially among younger Japanese, about whaling were changing very rapidly.

Maybe, instead of ramming Japanese whale boats, someone should convince Hayao Miyazaki to make a film about whales. It would probably be vastly more effective.

But even more effectively (not to mention realistically) we can begin building networks based on a recognition of our mutual interests. This is true not just with regard to the whaling issue, but environmental issue generally. Those concerned about right-wing politics need to recognize that environmental issues are a central battleground, and environmentalists need to become wise about what they're up against. Where cultural gaps exist, building bridges may prove more effective than smashing hulls.

And the bridges that need to be built are both those with the people of whaling nations as well as our friends outside that realm.

Talkin' immigration

-- by Dave

My weekly post at Firedoglake this week kicks off a short but (I hope) intense three-part series on immigration, focusing on how progressives can pick up this ball and run with it. It's titled "Immigration: Seizing the Day":
The main role of progressives so far in the immigration debate has largely been a defensive one -- trying to beat back the ugly tide of nativism that has driven most of the legislation and activism around the issue in recent years, especially within the Republican Party.

We saw this dynamic at work this week, when the focus fell on the wave of hatefulness that's been the regular drumbeat on immigration both within the media and within political circles in the recent past. A coalition of progressive reformists came out firing with a campaign aimed at stopping the drumbeat, fueled by the recognition that it has been fueled in large part by reckless rhetoric from mainstream Republicans and media figures -- most notably, CNN's Lou Dobbs, who when confronted with demands for accountability on this score has blustered and lied -- but the debate still took place largely on his terms.

However, even Republicans are starting to realize that not only is immigrant-bashing a non-starter for them -- for instance, the otherwise quite clueless David Brooks is aware enough to plead: "Can we please stop pretending that immigration is a good issue for Republicans?" -- it's a dead end for the party in the long term. Certainly, whatever advantage among Latinos the GOP might have gained under Bush's tenure has been demolished by the likes of Tom Tancredo and the rest of the GOP field.

Progressives need to recognize that immigration reform, conversely, can be a real winning issue for them -- especially for the long term. The electorate's rebuke of Republican nativists is a chance to completely and permanently alter the field of play, to get away from fighting defensive battles and to go on the offensive -- instituting a progressive approach to immigration that is both humane and effective for working-class Americans across the racial and economic spectrum.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Immigration: Seizing the Day

[Cross-posted  at Firedoglake.]

The main role of progressives so far in the immigration debate has largely been a defensive one — trying to beat back the ugly tide of nativism that has driven most of the legislation and activism around the issue in recent years, especially within the Republican Party.

We saw this dynamic at work this week, when the focus fell on the wave of hatefulness that’s been the regular drumbeat on immigration both within the media and within political circles in the recent past. A coalition of progressive reformists came out firing with a campaign aimed at stopping the drumbeat, fueled by the recognition that it has been fueled in large part by reckless rhetoric from mainstream Republicans and media figures — most notably, CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who when confronted with demands for accountability on this score has blustered and lied — but the debate still took place largely on his terms.

However, even Republicans are starting to realize that not only is immigrant-bashing a non-starter for them — for instance, the otherwise quite clueless David Brooks is aware enough to plead: "Can we please stop pretending that immigration is a good issue for Republicans?" — it’s a dead end for the party in the long term. Certainly, whatever advantage among Latinos the GOP might have gained under Bush’s tenure has been demolished by the likes of Tom Tancredo and the rest of the GOP field.

Progressives need to recognize that immigration reform, conversely, can be a real winning issue for them — especially for the long term. The electorate’s rebuke of Republican nativists is a chance to completely and permanently alter the field of play, to get away from fighting defensive battles and to go on the offensive — instituting a progressive approach to immigration that is both humane and effective for working-class Americans across the racial and economic spectrum.

The immigration debate, for those progressives who have already been deeply involved in it, has in fact felt rather like waiting for Godot — we know our fellow progressives are going to be coming along any day now to join the journey toward effective reform. Still, we sit and sit, checking our watches as the clock ticks down, and we wonder.

So far, the debate has almost entirely revolved around the division between rival factions of the right: the corporate conservatives who have benefited from the status quo and would benefit even more from a "guest worker" program; and the nativist bloc that wants every one of the 12 million "illegal aliens" in America rounded up and "sent back where they came from."

If there is a progressive position, it has largely been involved in knocking down nonsense from both sides of the right, but particularly the race-baiting nativist factions. If there is a positive position, it hasn’t been enunciated clearly at all — which means that there has been precious little advocacy from the left. It’s well past time for that to change.

This is especially the case because the rightist factions have managed to simply dismiss any advocacy from the left as being about "open borders" — see, for instance, the way that Dobbs dismissed the factual evidence regarding his reliance on white supremacists and hate groups in his broadcasts by claiming that both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL are advocates of "open borders" (actually, they’re not). That is, of course, a typically false smear from the right. And elucidating a clear progressive position is the only way to overcome it.

As Rick Jacobs, the chief organizer of this summer’s Dreams Across America tour — a ride on which I tagged along for FDL — observed at the time at Huffington Post:
The immigrant’s rights movement has been more about rights than about movement. Up to now, we have seen hundreds of thousands of mostly Mexicans marching in downtown LA or other cities, opposing draconian law or demanding rights. But as my friend Paula Litt at Liberty Hill Foundation says, there is no inalienable right to become a US citizen.

So the movement has brought lots of unions and people of color (read: Latino and Asian) together, it has not inspired the online activists who write blogs and checks or the white political elite who write checks to take action.
Matt Stoller has also talked about this:
What is clear is that if progressives are going to play on immigration, we need a strategy and a set of arguments. My gut says that this is going to require linking immigration and trade, since this is an issue having to do with labor, capital, and goods all flowing across borders. Our current immigration ‘problems’ (or opportunities, depending on whether you a big business guy who likes slave labor) cannot be disassociated from NAFTA, and I’m curious why that attempt was made.

In other words, if there’s a ‘grand bargain’ to be struck on immigration, it should address the millions of Mexicans and Americans thrown into poverty by our trade policies, who then become immigrants or dispossessed. Regardless, the immigration debate, for it to be relevant to progressives, has to be linked to a larger narrative of economic instability.

There’s something about labor rights in there, but labor has so little reach now that we need new arguments.
This is exactly right, so far as it goes. However, we also need to understand that immigration encompasses much more than merely economics and trade — it’s about fundamental human decency, it’s about our place in the world and our cultural and economic health, but most of all it’s about the meaning of what it is to be American:
What America has always been about is our shared values — a love of freedom and a respect for others’ freedoms, our willingness to work hard, our desire to raise our families in a safe and healthy place, and our wish to pass all that on to our children and their children.

For most of the past century — since the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, which codified the racist desire to keep out people who were not white (specifically, Chinese and Japanese) — our immigration laws have been predicated on the desire to keep people out, because we believed their skin color and nationality mattered more than their values. As the Dreamers and their stories make clear, it is time to find a way to welcome those who are, inside, truly American.

When that happens, we finally will begin living up to our own great ideal: the American dream.
Progressive values encompass all those things, and a progressive position on immigration will naturally be about them as well. But progressives haven’t taken it because it hasn’t been clear to them just how they can enunciate those things in a cohesive way that makes sense not just to them but to all Americans.

This, I think, is why liberals have largely sat on their hands on this. Check out, if you will, the comments that came in to HuffPo over Jacobs’ posts, or those that poured in to the Dreams Across America blog: they were overwhelmingly nativist (with many of them claiming, without much evidence, that they really are progressives, with the less-than-persuasive caveat that they’re "just opposed to illegal immigration"). It has been hard to find many liberals actually willing to engage and refute their nonsense.

It also seems clear that progressives don’t quite comprehend the importance of the immigration debate — it just seems to many of us that this is an issue raised by conservatives and is simply an in-house fight among them. But the truth is that, probably more than any other issue confronting the nation beyond the Iraq war, it is a debate that will profoundly affect America’s culture and economy, and its position in the world, for decades to come.

Most of all, it is probably the greatest opportunity in many years for progressives to regain their position of cultural strength, to make tremendous gains among average Americans in the heartland, and to reestablish liberalism as a powerful force for good in the political realm.

Doing so will require two significant steps:

– Refuting the flood of wrong-headed garbage that’s been coming from both factions of the right in this debate.

– Enunciating a clear and powerful position for progressives that encompasses their values, as well as those of Americans at large.

I’ll be devoting the next two posts in this space (Thursdays at 6 pm FDL) to precisely that project. And in the interim, I’m also interested in input from other progressives. We’ll have a lively conversation here, I hope, and some of it will make it into next week’s installment.


'A surrender to terror'

-- by Dave

"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."
-- Mitt Romney, upon giving up his 2008 GOP presidential bid

Gee, no sooner do we mention "Dolchstosslegende" than we get yet another prominent Republican making hay with it. As John Emerson says, you'd "have trouble imagining an uglier, more demagogic concession speech."

But actually, Democrats had better brace themselves for a lot more of this. If the Iraq-war-supporting McCain is the nominee -- and it's becoming self-evident now that he will be -- we're going to be hearing a lot more of two big themes coming out of the Republican camp for the better part of the next year:
-- The "surge" really is working

-- Liberal Democrats and the media are stabbing our soldiers in the back

Somewhere along the way, you can probably expect the Village to mutate these two themes into a modern-day version of Nixon's 1972 "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War -- to wit, something along the line of, "Well, McCain is a serious guy about the war, which means that after the election, he can actually win and get the troops home," or some other similar nonsense.

Y'see, Sara? CPAC didn't need to have Ann Coulter up onstage after all. There are plenty of Republicans eager to play her role.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

If conservatives really, really hate being called fascists ... #5

-- by Dave

.. then maybe they should stop talking like them.

... Maybe they should stop making all those implications that the reason America's adventure with hegemony in Iraq hasn't turned out so well is because of all those peaceniks and treasonous liberals in the media who helped cheer on the insurgents. The ones who stabbed our soldiers in the back.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Your upcoming book begins with a quote from Cicero about how a nation “cannot survive treason from within.” Surely you’re not calling Democrats traitors. Or are you?

“Buzz” Patterson: I am. They certainly are if their behavior during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is held up to the light of the U.S. Constitution. Article III, Section 3 defines treason against the United States as “adhering to (our) enemies, giving them aid and comfort. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, and John Murtha, amongst others, are guilty of exactly that. When a government official stands on the floor of Congress and declares the war lost; or travels to Syria, a state-sponsor of terror, and meets with the leadership that is funneling insurgents into Iraq to kill Americans; or, publicly compares our military men and women to Nazis, Soviets in gulags, and Pol Pot; or refers to our Marines as “cold blooded killers” before an ongoing investigation is completed and charges filed, they have crossed the line and have taken their politics to the battlefield. These are behaviors that give aid and comfort to our enemy.

It’s not just the Democrats though but many on the Left — its faculties and administrations on college campuses, big media, Hollywood, and left-wing organizations such as the Ford Foundation,, United for Peace and Justice, etc. What is particularly disturbing to me is that these Americans are doing it while their fellow citizens are fighting and dying in combat. The best ally that al Qaeda has these days is the Democrat Party leadership. It’s reprehensible.
National Review, May 1, 2007

IN THE MAIL: Col. Buzz Patterson's War Crimes: The Left's Campaign to Destroy Our Military and Lose the War on Terror.

I don't think that the left wants to lose the war on terror, exactly — they just want Bush to lose the war on terror. I suspect, however, that Patterson's theme is one that we'll hear more in the future, especially if things go badly in Iraq.
-- Instapundit, June 23, 2007

To some people, Vietnam wasn't a defeat, but a victory. To them, the right side won. And lost. Naturally, they're happy to repeat the experience.
-- Instapundit, Feb. 17, 2007

Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn't exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a majority -- or even a large and angry minority -- of Americans comes to conclude that the press is untrustworthy and unpatriotic. How far are we from that point?
-- Instapundit, May 24, 2004

The press had better hope we win this war, because if we don't, a lot of people will blame the media.
-- Instapundit, March 5, 2006

If Pelosi wants to be commander-in-chief, let her run for president. Otherwise, today’s vote was a bayonet stabbed in the back of every American troop in Iraq.
Don Surber, March 23, 2007 (also cited and quoted approvingly by Instapundit)

The party of John Murtha shamelessly seeks to defund and defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Congress the terrorists wanted is doing their bidding. ... We'd have to go back to Benedict Arnold to find Americans as eager as Murtha & Co. to see an American defeat on the battlefield.
-- Investors Business Daily editorial, Feb. 16, 2007

Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all you clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send them over to the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything.”
-- Bill O'Reilly, June 20, 2005

Look, there’s no denying blood is flowing in Iraq. But how much and whose and at whose hand? Self-appointed “spokesmen” in Iraq are skilled in the art of media manipulation. They–like many in the American media–have a vested interest in exaggerating the violence as much as possible.

... Journalists in the legacy press are too busy trying to write the Bush administration’s obituary to notice that they are writing their own.

MSM credibility, R.I.P.
-- Michelle Malkin, hyping the later-discredited "Jamilgate" story

I wonder how many of our troops are being further endangered by the fakery we're discovering here? I wonder how many of their deaths in the coming weeks will be due to this sort of stuff? ... The press is literally trying to not simply destroy the man [Bush] but take down his government and surrender a military action that is important to the survival of our identity.
"The Anchoress," hopping aboard the "Jamilgate" story

What we have discovered in Iraq is the weakest link in the ability of the United States to sustain military operations overseas. That link is the U.S. media. They are Islamists' best friends. ... Without qualm or fear, therefore, they do our bidding day after day. Willingly, gleefully, with much self-congratulation, they pump our storyline into the bloodstream of the Western public.
Michael Novak, Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2006

All these are only a fraction of the wave of "stabbed in the back" narratives that have been increasingly propagated by mainstream conservatives in prominent positions over the past few years, especially perking up as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated. Rather than own up to their catastrophe, they fall back on their old standby: scapegoating liberals for their own failures.

But this particular form of scapegoating is one with a history. In fact, it's commonly referred to as "Dolchstosslegende":
The stab-in-the-back legend ... refers to a social myth and persecution-propaganda theory popular in Germany in the period after World War I through World War II. It attributed Germany's defeat to a number of domestic factors instead of failed militarist geostrategy. Most notably, the theory proclaimed that the public had failed to respond to its "patriotic calling" at the most crucial of times and some had even intentionally "sabotaged the war effort."

The legend echoed the epic poem Nibelungenlied in which the dragon-slaying hero Siegfried is stabbed in the back by Hagen von Tronje. Der Dolchstoß is cited as an important factor in Adolf Hitler's later rise to power, as the Nazi Party grew its original political base largely from embittered WWI veterans, and those who were sympathetic to the Dolchstoß interpretation of Germany's then-recent history.

We've touched on this point long before, mostly as part of a broader discussion of eliminationism, though I'm pretty sure it was Josh Marshall back in 2003 who first noted it being floated about the Beltway.

The definitive piece is from Kevin Baker in Harper's from 2006:
It didn't matter that Field Marshal Ludendorff had in fact been the virtual dictator of Germany from August of 1916 on, or that the empire's civilian leaders had been stunned by his announcement, in September of 1918, that his last, murderous offensives on the western front had failed, and that they must immediately sue for peace. The suddenness of Germany's defeat only supported the idea that some sort of treason must have been involved. From this point on, all blame would redound upon “the November criminals,” the scheming politicians, reds, and above all, Jews.

Yet it was necessary, for the purging that the Nazis had in mind, to believe that the national degeneration went even further. Jerry Lembcke, in his brilliant work, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, writes of how the Nazis fostered the dolchstosslegende in ways that eerily foreshadowed returning veteran mythologies in the United States. Hermann Göring, the most charismatic of the Nazi leaders after Hitler, liked to speak of how “very young boys, degenerate deserters, and prostitutes tore the insignia off our best front line soldiers and spat on their field gray uniforms.” As Lembcke points out, any insignia ripping had actually been done by the mutinous soldiers and sailors who would launch a socialist uprising shortly after the war, tearing them off their own shoulders or those of their officers. Göring's instant revisionism both covered up this embarrassing reality and created a whole new class of villains who were—in his barely coded language—homosexuals, sexually threatening women, and other “deviants.” All such individuals would be dealt with in the new, Nazi order.

And of course, it remained in the American political bloodstream well after Vietnam, as Baker describes, and was ready to resurface after the invasion of Iraq:
Given this state of permanent culture war, it is not surprising that the Bush White House trotted out the stab-in-the-back myth when its Iraq project began to run out of steam early last summer. It was first given a spin, as usual, by the right's media shock troops, and directed at both Democratic and renegade Republican lawmakers who had dared to criticize either the strategic conduct of the war or our treatment of detainees. The Wall Street Journal's editorial page opined, “Where the terrorists are gaining ground is in Washington, D.C.” and noted that General John Abizaid, of the U.S. Central Command, had said, “When my soldiers say to me and ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people or not, that worries me. And they're starting to do that.”

Again, the link was made. Soldiers of the most powerful army in the history of the world would be actively endangered if they even wondered whether the folks at home were questioning their deployment. The right was looking for a target, and it got one when Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), appalled by an FBI report on the prisons for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, compared them to those run by “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings . . . ”

The right's response was predictably swift and savage. The Power Line blogger Paul Mirengoff commented that the senator “slanders his own country. Normally that kind of slander is uttered only by revolutionaries seeking the violent overthrow of the government.” Rush Limbaugh harrumphed that “Dick Durbin has just identified who the Democrats are in the year 2005, particularly when it comes to American national security and when it comes to the U.S. military. These are the same people that say they support the troops. This is how they do it, huh? They give aid and comfort to the enemy.”

Matt Yglesias followed up with a piece of his own at TAP, which eventually produced a smug "Huh? Whuzzat?" response from Jonah Goldberg, who since he was at the time enmeshed in his Vewwy Important Wesearch for his Vewwy Sewious Book That Has Never Been Written With Such Cawe or Detail, seemed baffled why the "meme" would come popping up -- Baker's article, evidently, having eluded his otherwise all-consuming attention.

As Yglesias acidly observed:
Suffice it to say that I think the main point of analogy is that mainstream contemporary American conservatism, like inter-war Nazism, believes that military defeats are primarily due to failures of national will. They believe this in part because they massively overestimate the significance of will in determining outcomes of this sort. They also, like Nazis, seem to deny that it might ever better serve the national interest to abandon a military adventure than to continue it. These beliefs serve to foster the further belief that several constitutive elements of liberal democracies -- committed to free speech, to unfettered political debate, the existence of active political opposition movements -- are a source of national weakness.

Moreover, as Brian Beutler noted:
Anyhow, Matt's original article was perfectly prescient, but now that the war is a self-evident disaster, I think it's sort of odd that people are discussing a "stab in the back" campaign as some sort of far-off possibility for some point in the future "after we fail in Iraq". The campaign is already well underway.

However, as we've already stipulated, conservatives really are not fascists or Nazis, and using the "Dolchstosslegende" theme by itself is not evidence per se of being fascist -- rather, it's only one part of the constellation of traits that constitute the pathology, along side many others (including torture, misogyny,, racism, and as we will see, many others). But it is a fairly telling one.

As Brendan Nyhan points out:
However, as Baker recounts, the phrase "stabbed in the back" was first coined by Paul von Hindenburg, a German general in WWI who served as president of the Weimar Republic and not a Nazi (though he eventually capitulated to Hitler and appointed him Chancellor in 1933). And the idea that "military defeats are primarily due to failures of national will" and that "several constitutive elements of liberal democracies ... are a source of national weakness" are (sadly) hardly unique to Nazis.

This is precisely right -- and in fact, the Hindenburg example is highly instructive, since today's conservatives are in some ways in a similar position: using the "stabbed in the back" theme to cover for their own incompetence and cast blame elsewhere. And in the process, Hindenburg handed the real fascists lurking within the body politic the club they needed. Today's conservatives are in the process of repeating that mistake.

That's the threat of pseudo-fascism generally -- not that it is actually fascist itself, but that it creates the ground conditions for the real thing to break out. Which is bad news for liberals and conservatives alike.

Of course, when you pick and start yammering old fascist propaganda at the top of your lungs repeatedly, it also creates a certain impression. And as much as Jonah Goldberg would like that "canard" to go away, his biggest obstacle to achieving that will remain conservatives themselves.

[A note about this series.]

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We get the point

-- by Dave

I'm not sure why, but I couldn't resist posting this. It's all so white and so pure -- they do teach about saving it for marriage, right?

Onward Christian soldiers. Someone alert the General.

Via Hellblazer.

Mythbusting Canadian Health Care -- Part I

My latest piece for The Big Con is up. This week's post is the first of a two-parter aimed at mythbusting common misconceptions about how Canada's health care system works:
2008 is shaping up to be the election year that we finally get to have the Great American Healthcare Debate again. Harry and Louise are back with a vengeance. Conservatives are rumbling around the talk show circuit bellowing about the socialist threat to the (literal) American body politic. And, as usual, Canada is once again getting dragged into the fracas, shoved around by both sides as either an exemplar or a warning -- and, along the way, getting coated with the obfuscating dust of so many willful misconceptions that the actual facts about How Canada Does It are completely lost in the melee.

I'm both a health-care-card-carrying Canadian resident and an uninsured American citizen who regularly sees doctors on both sides of the border. As such, I'm in a unique position to address the pros and cons of both systems first-hand. If we're going to have this conversation, it would be great if we could start out (for once) with actual facts, instead of ideological posturing, wishful thinking, hearsay, and random guessing about how things get done up here.

To that end, here's the first of a two-part series aimed at busting the common myths Americans routinely tell each other about Canadian health care. When the right-wing hysterics drag out these hoary old bogeymen, this time, we need to be armed and ready to blast them into straw. Because, mostly, straw is all they're made of.

This Friday at 2:00 EST (that's 11:00 for those of us on the left coast), I'll be doing some more mythbusting on the "Sound Off with Sasha" show on WGCU/WMKO FM, a PBS local station in southwestern Florida. You can catch the show online here, pick up the podcast here, or call in and join the fun at 877-GCU-TALK.

Holding Lou Dobbs accountable

-- by Dave

It's been pretty clearly established, at least since he was spouting phony statistics about leprosy, that Lou Dobbs' relationship with reality is not exactly a healthy one. Since then, in nearly every aspect of his coverage of the immigration debate, from his reportage on the Dreams Train to his misbegotten coverage of the Ramos/Compean case, he's made a travesty of nearly every basic tenet of accuracy and fairness that journalists like to pretend they're the guardians of.

Meanwhile, from those journalists, we've been hearing crickets. And when a journalist like Amy Goodman finally does get ahold of Dobbs, we're treated to the usual: a ceaseless barrage of bullshit -- evasions, nonsequiturs, distortions, and factual falsehoods. But still, no one in the journalism industry has called him out on it.

Recently, however, Latino advocacy groups have taken the initiative on this matter -- not just with Dobbs, but with the mainstream media and public figures generally, calling them to account for their respective roles in inflaming the discourse to the point that an onslaught of bias crimes has resulted.

But Dobbs hates being called to account -- and furiously responds with another barrage of bullshit whenever someone does. So yesterday, he invited Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza (you know -- the organization whose name nativists and idiots like to translate as "the Race") to appear on his show.

And though she landed a lot of well-placed shots, it was really remarkable watching Dobbs at work -- simulataneously offering to let Murguia present her case and then constantly interrupting her and tossing in bon mots that included the usual nonsequiturs and nonsense. At one point, he offered to just let her have her say that day, and he would just respond the next -- and then, no more than a minute later, rudely interrupting her and accusing her of making these charges solely because she represented an (evidently evil) pro-illegal-immigrant interest group.

Most remarkable of all is that, while Dobbs in the past has just refused to engage or deal with the facts that contradict his reportage or his claims, this time around he actually spews a number of factual falsehoods, and they appear to be deliberate. That is to say, he's lying.

Let's go to the transcript:
MURGUIA: We're talking about a wave of hate and the way that that hate is manifested in different representatives that you have on this show.

We have got self-avowed vigilante representatives. This is Chris Simcox. He's been on your show five times on CNN.

DOBBS: The founder of the Minutemen.

MURGUIA: Founder of the Minuteman Project. And according to the SPLC, Southern Poverty...

DOBBS: Which is nothing more than a fund-raising and...

MURGUIA: That's your opinion. Let me just get this stuff...

DOBBS: That's right, but I'm going to tell you what it is.

MURGUIA: Simcox was convicted in 2003 of carrying a weapon in the national park while searching for undocumented immigrants. That same year, he was quoted in an Orange County newspaper saying, "So far, we've had restraint, but I'm afraid that restraint is wearing thin. Take heed of our weapons, because we are going to defend our borders by any means necessary."

He's a self-avowed vigilante...

DOBBS: Is he in charge of the Minutemen?

MURGUIA: Yes. He's the founder of the...

DOBBS: No, he's not.

FACT: Chris Simcox is the executive director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an offshot of the original Minuteman Project which envisions itself as a nationwide organization and not merely a border-watch operation. More importantly, at the time that Simcox appeared on Dobbs' show, he was in fact still very much the cofounder and chief spokesman for the Minuteman Project.

Indeed, on Dobbs' programs, he was consistently described as "Minuteman project cofounder Chris Simcox" or variations on that.

Dobbs' evasion isn't just a lie -- it's flat-out bald-faced bullshit. And it continues in this interview:
MURGUIA: ... of the Minutemen Project.

DOBBS: He's no longer associated with the Minutemen.

MURGUIA: He is associated and is a spokesperson...


MURGUIA: ... and was a spokesperson all these times.

DOBBS: Jim Gilchrist?

MURGUIA: Jim Gilchrist -- co-founder of the Minutemen Project, self-avowed vigilante. And he's been on your show eight times and on CNN 27 times.

You said that you proudly, proudly support these projects, that they're fine Americans and who make up all...

DOBBS: Can we see what you...

MURGUIA: Sure. I'm sorry. You said that you support the Minuteman Project, and that they're fine Americans who make it up in all they've accomplished fully, relentlessly, and proudly.

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: So I want to make sure you understand. These are folks who are documented to be part of hate groups.

DOBBS: Who documented them?

MURGUIA: Southern Poverty Leadership...

DOBBS: Southern Poverty Law Center...

MURGUIA: And the American Defamation League, ADL.

DOBBS: Both of whom are absolute advocate groups for open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens.

MURGUIA: That's your opinion.

DOBBS: No, it's not my opinion.

MURGUIA: Yes, it is your opinion.

DOBBS: No, it's a fact.

FACT: Neither the SPLC nor the ADL advocates for open borders, or for that matter takes any kind of position on border-security matters beyond the humane treatment of immigrants -- and Dobbs will come up dry should he ever bother to attempt to find any position papers or public statements from officials and leaders of those groups to indicate that they do. Both organizations are involved in the immigration debate strictly because it has become a significant recruiting ground for racist and ethnic-hate groups -- the kinds of groups that the SPLC and ADL make it their business to monitor, and with good reason.
MURGUIA: We have a Web site that documents not just these individuals, but others who are tied to hate groups or vigilante groups...

DOBBS: What did President Bush call them?

MURGUIA: ... and we've seen them on the air...

DOBBS: What did...

MURGUIA: ... relentlessly...

DOBBS: You have never...

MURGUIA: ... representing a point of view on immigration. It's like having David Duke on a panel to talk about affirmative action.

DOBBS: You're way...

MURGUIA: It's unaccepted -- it's unacceptable...

DOBBS: You're way overreaching (ph)...

Actually, Murguia is just scratching the surface here when it comes to Dobbs' real record for hosting far-right extremists and white supremacists on his show, and neglecting at the time (or at any time, for that matter) to inform his viewers that these people head up actual hate groups.
MURGUIA: And we don't want to tolerate it anymore. We're taking our case to the network heads and we're asking them to hold the networks accountable. We want to hold...

DOBBS: You want me fired, don't you?

MURGUIA: No, I'm saying that...

DOBBS: Don't you want me fired?

Yes, Lou -- it's all about you. As always.
MURGUIA: No, I want to hold you accountable for how you use your microphone every night.

DOBBS: Who am I to be accountable to? You?

MURGUIA: No. You're accountable to the broader...

DOBBS: Aren't I accountable to my audience?

MURGUIA: You're accountable to the broader public, in making sure that we're bringing factual information...

DOBBS: OK, let's talk about some facts, shall we?

Woops! Don't wanna answer that! Let's change the subject, pronto!
MURGUIA: ... to the people.

DOBBS: I want you to get through your charts.


DOBBS: I want to point out one thing, if I may, on this. The statement about the Minutemen came after President Bush had called the Minutemen vigilantes.

MURGUIA: That's right.

DOBBS: The fact is, that the Minutemen -- and please, this is your opportunity. The Minutemen have never, ever been charged with an act of violence...

MURGUIA: Chris Simcox was arrested and convicted.

DOBBS: Oh, was he a member of the Minutemen when that occurred?

MURGUIA: Yes. It was in 2003, and he was founder of the Minutemen Project.

DOBBS: And he was doing what?

MURGUIA: He was convicted -- arrested and convicted of carrying a gun into a national park searching for undocumented immigrants. All this is documented on our Web site.

DOBBS: So you would cast the entire organization of the Minutemen...

MURGUIA: I'm casting him. I'm holding you accountable for putting him on the airwaves and saying that he is an expert on immigration reform. That's ridiculous. He's not an expert on immigration reform.

DOBBS: Did we say he was an expert, or did we say that he was one of the founders of the Minutemen?

Um, actually, Lou, you just tried to skewer her for saying he was one of the founders of the Minutemen ... So is he or isn't he, Lou?
MURGUIA: I think you couch this -- you gave him this aura of respectability. You also cited in 2006 a source of your, you know, branding it CNN and Lou Dobbs, around the Council of Conservative Citizens, which also the SPLC has named as a white nationalist hate group. This is a group that denigrates routinely blacks as genetically inferior, complained about, you know, Jewish power, and also denigrated homosexuals as perverted sodomites.

All I'm saying is, you're co-branding yourself and CNN with a white supremacist nationalist hate group.

DOBBS: Did we do that?

MURGUIA: This...

DOBBS: Did we really?

MURGUIA: ... was on your program on May 23rd...

DOBBS: How long was that on the air?

MURGUIA: ... 2006.

DOBBS: How long was that...

MURGUIA: It doesn't matter how long.

DOBBS: Of course it does.

MURGUIA: It doesn't.

DOBBS: Of course it does.

MURGUIA: You're using hate speech, hate group to make a case on immigration.

DOBBS: I'm going to tell you straight up...

MURGUIA: To make a case on immigration.

DOBBS: Do you want the answer?


DOBBS: You want to know how long it was on the air?

MURGUIA: It doesn't matter.

DOBBS: Seconds. You have just given them more airtime than this network, this broadcast ever did.

MURGUIA: And I'm holding you accountable for having given them any sort of exposure.

DOBBS: Oh, you are?

MURGUIA: And the fact that you're associating yourself...

DOBBS: So you should be...

MURGUIA: ... with this extremist...

DOBBS: I associated myself?

MURGUIA: You cite them as a fact...

DOBBS: I did?

MURGUIA: ... on this...


MURGUIA: This says, "Dobbs -- LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, CNN."

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: That's there for everyone to see.

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: This is from your show on May 23rd, 2006.

DOBBS: Right.

More here. The important point to remember here is that the CofCC material indeed was flashed for only a few seconds, but Dobbs and his reporter, Casey Wians, have never, ever backed down from the entire reporting that went along with the graphic -- namely, the nonsensical garbage about "Aztlan" and the "Reconquista" theory. And as we demonstrated long ago, that entire conspiracy theory in fact originates with white-supremacist hate groups. And if his interview with Goodman is any indication, Dobbs still very much believes this garbage.
MURGUIA: This kind of hate speech, this kind...

DOBBS: What year?

MURGUIA: 2006.

DOBBS: You got anything a little more recent?

Um ... well, yeah. A lot.
MURGUIA: We have got a whole Web site that documents all of this.

DOBBS: I -- let's go through your Web site. OK?

MURGUIA: Yes, sure.

DOBBS: Let's go through this.

MURGUIA: Yes. Because we've made a case.

DOBBS: I want you to...

MURGUIA: We want to make sure that you need to know. Just make one point -- hate speech has consequences. We have seen the rise in hate crimes in the same time that these types of comments and people were on your show and on other CNN shows...

DOBBS: So I'm responsible for that?

MURGUIA: ... Fox, MSNBC -- we're holding all three networks. We saw a rise in hate crimes against Hispanics raised by 23 percent. And twice that in California.

Hate speech has consequences.

DOBBS: Janet, OK, is it my turn? You have now been talking for over four minutes.

MURGUIA: You have the mike every night.

DOBBS: So you're taking it away from me tonight?

MURGUIA: I'm just saying, I want to make my case.

DOBBS: So you wouldn't like -- OK.

MURGUIA: I appreciate...

DOBBS: Would you like me to -- OK. So what would you like me to do? I will tell you what, we'll give you some more time, and then I'll respond to you tomorrow evening.


DOBBS: How about it?

MURGUIA: Well, I appreciate that.

I just want to make sure you know, for us, it's intolerable and untenable.

DOBBS: Who's us?

MURGUIA: The National Council of La Raza. We represent a civil rights and advocacy organization...

DOBBS: You're a civil rights and...

MURGUIA: ... for 40 years.

DOBBS: You're a socio-ethnocentric organization with a specific interest in driving illegal immigration and amnesty, and you know it.

That's right -- don't bother to address the actual charges. Just bluster about how they're being raised by eeeeevil "open borders" and "illegal alien" advocates.

Beats wrestling with the facts for Dobbs, no doubt.

In any event, the discussion continues in this vein for some time, with Dobbs dismissing the ADL and SPLC out of hand, mostly as his way of defending his continuing reliance on material from designated hate groups. Finally, he comes up with a bizarre defense for the prepronderance of hate speech within the immigration debate and his potential role in that -- namely, it's all Mexico's fault:
DOBBS: Excuse me. You would not even be involved in this debate on illegal immigration unless the preponderance of those illegal aliens were Hispanic. And you know that is a fact.

MURGUIA: I know...

DOBBS: I would be involved in this debate no matter what.

MURGUIA: ... that we can't stand for dehumanizing and demonizing and scapegoating a segment of our society...

DOBBS: Then why in the world have you not taken on the government of Mexico and Central America, and those who create the conditions that drive -- that drive illegal immigration?

Um, maybe because those conditions don't cause the demonizing and scapegoating of illegal immigrants that Lou Dobbs likes to indulge. Just a thought. In any event, your question is a complete non-sequitur.

Murguia goes on to make two more important points:
MURGUIA: There is no coincidence between the extreme rhetoric that the debate has taken and a rise in hate crimes. Words have consequences. And our community is feeling the brunt of that.

Again, Dobbs mostly whines that it's unfair to blame him for this -- and it is, were anyone blaming him directly, but no one is. Rather, there's a level of culpability related to causality, and it's something anyone in the position of being a powerful media figure must deal with responsibly.

Dobbs? Eh, not so much. In fact, NOT AT ALL.

Muguia gets to the heart of the matter a little later:
MURGUIA: We can have -- we can have a separate discussion on immigration.

DOBBS: No, that's what the Congressional Budget...

MURGUIA: But don't dismiss this hate speech and the fact that these individuals that you parade and cloak with an air of respectability are identified and self-avowed vigilante organizations and hate groups.


MURGUIA: I mean, we can have a separate discussion about immigration. This is about keeping hate and hate speech out of the debate.


Dobbs goes on to whine that efforts to confront this speech are an "attack on free speech" -- when in fact, they are simply themselves an exercise in free speech.

Standing up to bad speech of any kind with speech of your own denouncing it is the way American discourse is supposed to work. And it becomes imperative when that bad speech is being broadcast over the national airwaves -- at which point, the question is not a matter of infringing on free speech, but of demanding that the guardians of our public airwaves meet basic community standards of human decency (not to mention journalistic accuracy) we expect.

And it's important to remember: Those guardians face commercial, not governmental, consequences for the failure to act. No one is trying to censor Lou Dobbs. But we the public want him held accountable for his misbegotten journalism, which lately has even devolved into outright lying -- reportage that has not just polluted the public discourse, but has played its role in harming the public's actual well-being.

It's clear Dobbs refuses to accept any accountability whatsoever. And if his bosses refuse to act, then the next step will be to begin talking to their advertisers. At some point, Dobbs will discover that words really do have consequences -- of all kinds.

Are They Crazy Dangerous, or Just Plain Crazy?

Welcome sign to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX

-- by Sara

One of the hard parts of dealing with the fringe elements of the extremist right is figuring out whether a given group is just harmless garden-variety crazy -- or harboring the special kind of insanity that will lead to acts of local violence or outright domestic terror.

I was noodling around the web doing some research on this recently, and came across a public document from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (that's the CIA with a maple leaf on its hat) that summarized some of the tell-tale signs they look for in discerning who's gone over the edge and around the bend, and might be regarded as a possible threat to domestic security. The signs are simple and elegant -- and, I thought, useful rules of thumb for anyone who's trying to decide if the local ruffians are just disaffected, or heading for serious trouble.

The article is aimed at "the challenge of contending with religious movements whose defining characteristic is an adherence to non-traditional spiritual belief systems;" but pretty much everything they say applies just as accurately to "non-traditional political belief systems" -- such as neo-Nazism and its fetid cousins -- as well. Here's a wrap-up of what CSIS' agents look for in assessing possible trouble ahead.

Marching Toward the Apocalypse
You can tell a lot about a group's danger quotient by taking a quick look at their preferred future. The CSIS document was written in 1999, so the authors had their eyes wide open looking for millennialist groups looking to bring on some variant of the Second Coming in 2000. That threat, of course, has passed; but the general rule still holds. Any group that's insisting that The End Is Near -- that the world is about to end in fire, ice, Rapture, or a Racial Holy War -- has already taken one giant step back from consensus reality. Interestingly: the report notes that "not all foresee a violent turning of the millennium; in fact, many see it as the catalyst for peaceful and harmonious change." Harmonic convergences and Jesus' Thousand-Year Kingdom also apply here. (Note, however: global warming, which is supported by thousands of studies, does not.)

The core point is: people who think this way have given up hope that they can create any kind of fulfilling future within this society, and have retreated to a fantasy future that they find more emotionally compelling. This is important: as I've discussed before, creating a common future is the fundamental goal that keeps societies together; and the shared vision and collective effort this goal inspires are critical to a functioning democracy. When people check out of the reality-based consensus vision entirely and cling beyond the reach of reason to future-based fairy tales -- especially if they start doing it in large numbers -- it's a serious symptom of a democratic society in trouble.

Authoritarian leaders, in particular, specialize in peddling these fantasies. As we'll see, they use them as an early lever that will pry open their followers' minds, allowing them to hijack their moral systems and ultimately control of their actions as well.

A Theology of Violence
The report lays out the small handful of epistemological beliefs that set the stage and provide justification for groups heading toward ideologically-based violence:
Dualism - The belief that the world is fractured into two opposing camps of Good and Evil, which confers a profound significance on small social and political conflicts as evidence of this great cosmic struggle, and which could precipitate a violent response.

The persecuted chosen - Movements view themselves as prophetic vanguards belonging to a chosen elite but feel persecuted by wicked and tyrannical forces, which push the group to make concrete preparations to defend their sacred status.

Imminence - Because movements believe the apocalypse is unfolding before their very eyes, the "last days" are experienced as psychologically imminent and pressure them to take immediate action to ensure their salvation.

Determinism - Since a group devoutly believes it will be the ultimate winner of the final battle, if it believes a catastrophic scenario is being actualized, the group may feel it has no choice but to try to trigger the apocalypse through violence.

Salvation through conflict/enemy eradication - As salvation depends entirely upon direct participation in the apocalyptic struggle, a group is always on the verge of anticipating confrontation, which justifies action to eliminate evil and eradicate enemies.
Authoritarian groups like to set up strong black-and-white boundaries between "us" and "them'" -- and then enforce those boundaries with stringent behavior codes, persecution myths, demonization of outsiders, and stories about the future that promise them ultimate victory. Note that all tribes do this to some degree -- you can see all of this going on at some level in both Republican and Democratic party politics, for example -- because it's an instinctive part of how humans bond. But when a group embraces in-group/out-group thinking to the point of paranoia -- and to where where it's actively anticipating, preparing for, and perhaps even making plans to precipitate the coming end -- you can safely say it's veered into dangerous territory.

The Chosen One
Sociologists have devised dozens of different scales by which one can assess the relative "cultish" nature of a group. One of the recurring traits that's noted on every such scale I've ever seen is that cults always have a charismatic, messianic leader around whom everything else revolves. In fact, these leaders are so central to the whole enterprise that the group will almost always fold after its leader dies or (as frequently happens) is sentenced to a long jail term.

Whether they're on the left (Jim Jones) or the right (Rev. Moon), these leaders all operate in exactly the same way -- a way that is strikingly familiar to those of us already acquainted with Altemeyer's description of high-SDO leaders. They step into the center of their followers' lives, dictating every detail of their existence and co-opting their moral centers. When the followers become convinced that society's rules no longer apply to them because they follow a "higher code" laid down by their leader, the door to antisocial and perhaps even violent action swings wide open. And the leaders themselves, unanswerable to any other authority, often set the prime example for violence by heaping unchecked and escalating abuse on their own followers over time.

Goin' Up To The Country
Of course, you can only live by your own rules for so long before you start drawing unwanted attention to yourself. So, in trying to stay under the radar, these groups often decide to move out of town to some remote corner of the world, buying up large tracts of country property where they can build a compound and be left to "live in peace" -- though, too often, peace is about the last thing that results from this.

According to CSIS, "goin' up to the country" is a watershed moment in the development of a dangerous group. The decision to withdraw from society is often the first overt act of paranoia -- a clear statement that the group believes that mainstream authority is "out to get us," and is strongly asserting the right to live outside the law. Furthermore, in the isolation of the compound, leaders are free to consolidate their arbitrary control over the group's members, without any social counterbalance at all -- "a situation that facilitates violence," as the report observes.

In this hothouse environment, suspicion and dependency flourish; and the unquestioned conviction that the outside world means them harm -- and they must organize and arm themselves for the coming showdown -- takes deep root. The persistence of this pattern is borne out by the huge numbers of rural cult compounds that turned into armed camps in recent American history. Jonestown. Waco. The Aryan Nations' Hayden Lake camp in Idaho. Elizabeth Clare Prophet's attempt to arm her retreat in Montana. The Hare Krishna compound in West Virginia. Rajneeshpuram in Oregon. (The biggest example of all may be the Mormon exodus to Utah, where Brigham Young's growing paranoia led him to order the Mountain Meadows Massacre.) When a charismatic leader moves his or her group en masse from the city to the country, that group has crossed a Rubicon beyond which the likelihood of violence increases dramatically.

When all four of these factors are in play -- emotional investment in a fantasy future, adoption of an apocalyptic belief system, total dominance by a charismatic leader, and withdrawal and isolation from the world -- the CSIS report indicates that you're looking at group that is actively assembling the means, the motive, and the intent required to commit violent acts against the outside world. From this point, we're not unreasonable to ask: Where is this going? What could set them off? How and when might the shooting begin?

The pattern of proximate events that propel these groups toward actual acts of violence will be the subject of the next post.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ron Paul and the IRS

-- by Dave

The facts about Ron Paul's predilection for far-right conspiracy theories are nothing new to regular readers here, as well as for anyone who's >taken a look at his old newsletters. They are among the reasons, as we've explained, that Paul attracts far-right adherents, and they manifest themselves in the form of classic far-right scams like "Ron Paul dollars".

Now comes the news that Paul has hired as his "economic adviser" a fellow named Peter Schiff. He who runs securities brokerage and has authored a book on the forthcoming economic doomsday (ahem) -- and he also has a history of promoting the claim that the Internal Revenue Service is an illegitimate federal agency that taxpayers have a legal right to ignore, which is a classic "Patriot" movement theory:
Not mentioned by the Paul campaign is that Mr. Schiff is the son of Irwin Schiff of Las Vegas, now serving his third federal prison sentence for tax crimes. He is also the author of such books as "The Federal Mafia," which asserts that federal judges are paid off by the Internal Revenue Service, and other books describing the federal government as a criminal organization that illegally extracts income taxes.

Peter Schiff was the co-author of "the Great Income Tax Hoax."

The son, in interviews, has said he thinks his father is correct in asserting that there is no law to make most Americans liable for income taxes and so they can legally put zeroes on their tax returns. Peter Schiff, however, said that he pays his taxes.

Dr. Paul wants to eliminate income and estate taxes and taxes on tips.
(Clarification here on his position on a consumption tax.) He has written that a consumption tax would be better, but only if the income tax is first repealed. Dr. Paul said he wants to shrink the government to what he consider its constitutionally appropriate size, but has not said precisely how he would raise that revenue.

Dr. Paul has not criticized the tax protesters among his supporters, even ones who deny the legitimacy of the tax laws. While he has said that the income tax law is valid, he has also said that rules requiring people who make more than minimal income fill out income tax returns violates the 13th Amendment's prohibition against involuntary servitude.

No, this does not come as a surprise here. But it's decidedly yet another piece of evidence regarding Paul's fitness to be president, or rather the lack thereof.

If anyone needs a rundown on why these various theories about the IRS are bogus, there's a pretty complete discussion of them here.

If conservatives really, really hate being called fascists ... #4

-- by Dave

... then maybe they should stop talking and behaving like them.

Maybe they should find a way to stop frothing at the mouth and race-baiting like Theodore Bilbo clones at the very prospect of an African-American man winning the presidency.

Indeed, maybe they ought to find a way to stop sounding like eugenicists every time they talk about black people in general -- particularly the constantly recurring theme about black criminality.

Actually, most of the race-baiting that conservatives indulge is sublimated, pseudo-academic stuff -- sophistry posing as sophistication. But it doesn't take much to scratch off the surface deniability -- and what's underneath is the same old shit:
His trash talking was an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard, and capped a mediocre night. ... In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates. He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn't know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.
Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal

"The brutal truth: Obama is a 'wigger'. He's a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless."
-- Steve Sailer, American Conservative

At the core of the Democratic front-runner's faith — whether lapsed Muslim, new Christian or some mixture of the two — is African nativism, which raises political issues of its own. ... Would Obama put African tribal or family interests ahead of U.S. interests?
-- Investor's Business Daily editorial

"I have a telegram from the White House... They're going to have to change the name of that building if Obama's elected."
-- Businessman William R. Farr, at the National Western Stock Show banquet

Many whites assume that the mixed-race and Hawaiian-born Mr. Obama is, in Mr. Steele's words, "indifferent to the whole business of race and identity." According to Mr. Steele, the author of 1990s acclaimed "The Content of Our Character," they see voting for Mr. Obama as proving that they personally aren't guilty of racism.

Mr. Steele suggests that many whites hope electing Mr. Obama president will show blacks that white racism isn't what's holding them back anymore. Numerous white Democrats, I would add, view backing Mr. Obama as confirming their moral and cultural superiority over other whites (those redneck racists). Whites strive for status mostly against other whites, and conceive of minorities primarily as handy props in these intra-racial struggles.

While some whites envisage Mr. Obama as the Cure for White Guilt, blacks are in no hurry to grant the white race absolution for slavery and Jim Crow, since they benefit from compensatory programs like affirmative action.

-- Steve Sailer, Washington Times

I think it's worth imagining a certain scenario. Imagine the Democrats do rally around Obama. Imagine the media invests as heavily in him as I think we all know they will if he's the nominee — and then imagine he loses. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged. I can imagine the fear of this social unraveling actually aiding Obama enormously in 2008. Forget Hillary's inevitability. Obama has a rendezvous with destiny, or so we will be told. And if he's denied it, teeth shall be gnashed, clothes rent and prices paid.
Jonah Goldberg, NRO

Well, as I observed at the time:
There in fact already are "certain segments of American political life" that have become completely unhinged by Obama's candidacy itself, not merely the (now rapidly diminishing) prospects of his defeat: they're called the lunatics of the racist right, who have in fact gone so far as to promise his assassination -- which is why Secret Service security around him has been so tight.

I don't know about you, but perhaps, rather than speculating about a possible violent trend involving, oh, you know, those unnamed colored people who might -- just might, mind you, though there has been no violence yet associated with any of Obama's supporters -- go a-rioting if Obama actually lost, maybe it would be worth the expenditure of space in the public discourse to talk about the very real possibility that someone may in fact take violent action to stop Obama from becoming president.

The old Strom Thurmond faction is alive and well in today's Republican Party. And while party officials know full well they can't openly embrace it, there's no doubt that there's an undercurrent there towards which they can wink and nudge:
Today informed its staff via email that they should no longer enable comments on stories about presidential candidate Barack Obama. The reason for the new policy, according to the email, is that stories about Obama have been attracting too many racist comments.

"It's very simple," Mike Sims, director of News and Operations for, told me. "We have our Rules of Engagement. They prohibit personal attacks, especially racist attacks. Stories about Obama have been problematic, and we won't tolerate it." does sometimes delete comments on an individual basis, but Sims said that was not sufficient in the case of Obama stories due to "the volume and the persistence" of the objectionable comments.

CBS News, June 4, 2007

But of course, consistent with their ongoing use of the projection strategy, we also find Fox News accusing Obama of racism. Because that's how things work in right-wing la-la-land.

[A note about this series.]